Technovision Anamorphic lenses were “reborn” by P+S Technik at Cine Gear 2018. The new lenses are named Technovision Classics and are 1.5x squeeze Full Frame anamorphics. The series consists of 5 primes: 40mm T2.2 , 50mm T2.2, 75mm T2.5, 100mm T3.0 and 135 T3.0 mm. There are 2 zoom lenses: 40-70mm T3.2 (previously 35-70) and 70-200mm T3.0. They all have cylindrical front anamorphic elements.
Technovision is a legendary name. Since the 1970s, hundreds of motion pictures were shot with Technovision 35mm format 2x squeeze anamorphic lenses. The list is impressive. Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC shot Apocalypse Now, Ladyhawk and The Last Emperor with Techovision lenses. Luc Besson and Thierry Arbogast used them on La Femme Nikita. The list goes on.
Alfred Piffl (company founder and product manager) and Anna Piffl (Managing Director) described the origins of this new endeavor: “Harald Buggenig, Owner of Technovision Rome, asked us if we would like to build a new series of Technovision optics. It was an honor.”
There are two parts to this story. Let’s start with Alfred’s remembrance of things past.
“Henryk Chroscicki was born in 1919 in Poland. The family fled to Australia to escape the Nazis. He then settled in Italy and graduated from the famous Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico as a Director and Cinematographer in the 1950s. He founded Technovision in 1976 in Rome. Henryk was a fascinating personality— Director, Cinematographer, Producer, Rental House Owner. He worked with many famous people and spoke at least 6 languages fluently.
“Henryk had a keen sense for the trends in the industry. He had already experimented with anamorphic optics in the early sixties. In the 70s and 80s, he was competing with Bob Gottschalk’s Panavision as a leading rental house that could supply productions with equipment for widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1 film production. He had Technovision rental houses in London, Rome and later in Paris, which his daughter Natasza managed.
“Henryk’s big secret was who provided his anamorphic cylinders and glass. It is now known that the anamorphics came from Japan and were known as Shiga fronts or NipponScope. Technovision combined the Shiga fronts with different base lenses.”
In the beginning, Kinoptik lenses were used as the base lenses; later he used Cooke Speed Panchros and ZEISS Super Speeds. The core set was 25mm, 32mm, 35mmm, 40mm,50mm, 75mm, 85mm, 100mm, 135mm 180mm and 250mm. The zooms were built around 5:1 and 10:1 Cookes, with anamorphic rear cylindrical elements. So the 20-100 was a 40-200 and the 25-250 became a 50-500mm. The only disadvantage was losing 1.5 to 2 stops.
Alfred Piffl recalls his first trip to Rome to meet with Henryk, “The optics in the projection room, compared to what I knew from my time as a photographer, looked horrifying to me. It had pincushion distortion and color fringing several millimeters wide. It seemed useless! But those lenses were used to make great movies. What did I know? I was just a young engineer who had worked at ARRI on the 35BL4s and 535…
“Technovision’s Rental division in Rome was run by Harald Buggenig, a young man from Austria. Harald seemed very trustworthy, but the business meetings were always conducted in the café next door. In 1996, Harald took over the Technovision brand.”
A few days later, Harald Buggenig was on the phone from Rome.
Harald Buggenig studied economics in Vienna. Henryk, it turned out, was a partner of Harald’s uncle who was a film producer. They produced about 36 films together. It also turned out that the versatile Henryk Chroscicki was also the agent of the actor Lee van Cleef. Because Henryk was one of the few producers in Italy who could speak English, a lot of doors opened.
Harald explained, “Henryk was not just a cameraman. He was a manufacturer and a skilled producer, and very tied into the industry. He convinced Vittorio Storaro to shoot anamorphic, to make it look more amazing, not so clean, more emotional. Storaro shot Technovision 2.35:1 anamorphic up to Little Buddha.
“So, I have about 42 years of anamorphic lens experience. I started at Technovision when Coppola first started on Apocalypse Now. In our research, we liked the Cooke cine lenses created by Rank Taylor Hobson. Henryk had a very good eye. He tried Nikon, Leica and others, but settled on Cooke and ZEISS. He was always fond of Cooke and built a system around it.
“As mentioned before, the Cooke Speed Panchro anamorphics had Shiga Nippon front cylinders. They were designed by Giusseppe Magni, Technovision’s optical and mechanical designer. He was a very astonishing person.
“The real breakthrough was Apocalypse Now. They kept asking for more lenses. David Pringle, Henryk’s brother-in-law, who worked with us at the time, was constantly flying from Rome to location in the Philippines to Shiga in Tokyo. It was very frenetic.”
“When we were building and selling the original Technovision 35mm format anamorphic lenses, the Russian film industry was the largest customer. They had a 5 year plan, ordered 5 years in advance, and paid in advance. It helped that Henryk also spoke Russian. India was also a huge market.”
And about the Technovision-P+S Technik collaboration today?
Harald continued, “When I look through a viewfinder, I know from experience. I’m involved in the esthetics and exterior styling of these new lenses. I have a say in how it looks, trying different coatings, ideas on performance—but not the actual construction.
“We came to the same results. At first I worked around the idea of 2x Full Frame anamorphics, but then agreed that 1.5x or 1.6x squeeze for the 3:2 36x24mm format is better. I also pushed for more primes because the real pros like primes. It could be interesting to do long range zooms. Certainly we will do more focal lengths. This is a trend. Every lens company provides a set with more than 5 or 6 focal lengths.”
And what about 35mm format anamorphic today?
Harald said, “We still maintain a large inventory of anamorphic Super35 lenses at Technovision Rome. We just finished a TV series that will be popular in the United States as well: an HBORAI production of My Brilliant Friend (l’Amica Geniale) from the novel by Elena Ferrante. It’s a woman’s story growing up in Naples with her friend in the 1950s. The crew is Italian. The camera is Alexa Mini and Alexa XT shooting Arriraw. The world premiere will be November 18 after a screening at the Venice Film Festival.”
Meanwhile, back to the new Technovision Classic LF 1.5x Anamorphics by P+S Technik, Harald concluded, “What is driving the P+S Technik primes is that they are built in-house. They are not a rehousing. They are brand new, build from scratch. This is the reason we can create a new look, with new lenses. We can influence the coating, the focal length, the glass quality, the look. If you create your own lenses, you can set your own basic standards.”